Many writers, myself included, struggle with this aspect of writing, especially in the first draft. As far as I am concerned, I know how I want my story to sound, but it is very easy to forget that there are rules regarding point of view. It can be very easy to accidentally switch between first and third person, or from objective to limited omniscient, without even realizing it. Deciding what point of view to use should be a part of the planning process. After the first drafts are completed, they should also be scrutinized to make sure that any changes in point of view are intentional and not accidental. To help you keep track, here is my guide to points of view.

 

First-Person: I, We, Me, Us, Our

Second-Person: You, Your

Third-Person: He, She, It, They, Their

 

Objective: The author doesn’t state more than what can be inferred from the story’s action and dialogue. Nothing is disclosed about what the character’s think and feel. The author is a detached observer.

Omniscient: The author knows and tells everything about the characters. What they think and feel, as well as what they physically experience can be described to readers.

Limited Omniscient: The author only has unlimited knowledge of one character. This is a sort of halfway point between objective and omniscient.

 

I think it is important to note that second-person point of view has mostly fallen out of favor. It can be annoying to readers and seems pretty hard to pull off even in the best of circumstances. If you try it, be aware that you will probably be fighting an uphill battle. About the only example I can think of that I have seen that uses second-person were the old “choose your own adventure” books. (I feel nostalgic!)

Another note on stream-of-consciousness, which is also difficult to pull off, is that it is not a separate point of view from the ones mentioned above. It is an example of limited omniscient, although not the most common. The only difference is you get all the thoughts of your character and not just the ones that are connected to the story. This technique is more common than using second-person, but can still be annoying and unreadable if done poorly. Use at your own risk.

 

Which will allow you to most effectively develop your characters and story? What will allow you to give just enough needed information without giving too much away too soon? What will help your story flow naturally?

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